Emergency services in York County prepped for Jonas

Christopher Dornblaser, and Greg Gross
York Dispatch

With more than two feet of snow hitting in York County, the first snowstorm of the season hit with a bang. While many York countians were hunkered down, emergency service workers were prepared to help out in the storm.

York County 911 saw an increased call volume during the storm, generally from people who would have otherwise driven themselves or had someone drive them to the hospital, said Carl Lindquist, the county spokesman.

But the massive amount of snow made leaving home nearly impossible, and they were forced to rely on first responders, he said.

Response: In the lead up to the storm, West York EMS formed a response plan with West Manchester Township and West York officials.

"When we were dispatched, we responded with public works and the fire department for medical assist," said Nick Laughman, director of operations with West York EMS.

If needed, a borough or township plow truck cleared the way for the first responders, he said.

"They'd send public works ahead of us to plow the way," he said. "There was no way anyone was getting anywhere."

The EMS company also tried to have additional staff on duty, but some, like many York countians, had difficulties getting to work.

"We were trying to have three-man crews, but some people didn't make it in," Laughman said.

There were numerous calls for pregnant women going into labor who had to be transported via ambulance to the hospital, officials said.

One West York woman contacted borough officials on Facebook asking that her street be plowed because the ambulance was en route to take a pregnant woman to the hospital because she had gone into labor, Laughman said.

The borough quickly sent a plow truck her way.

National Guard assistance: Fawn Grove EMS service had some assistance with their job Sunday morning, according to Laura Taylor,  EMS Chief of Southern York Emergency Medical Services.

Taylor said around 3:45 a.m. Sunday, the National Guard came to assist them, with two Humvees and two Humvee ambulances and eight personnel assisting them.

“It was very busy, and we had extended timeframes getting to people due to the road conditions,” she said.

Before the National Guard came in and assisted, the service had fire departments and snow plows helping them get to people.

“We had snow plows from all six municipalities (that they serve) assist with calls,” she said. She said that the terrain they have to travel on is tough without the snow, adding that some roads they have to take are "one-lane dirt roads."

She said a lot of typical medical calls came in during the storm, and some of the ambulances had to get pulled out of the snow from fire departments or plows. Despite that, she said, they had no major issues with getting the patients where they needed to be.

Hospitals: Jason McSherry, spokesman for Memorial Hospital, said that even though they had some staffing issues, the hospital operated without many hiccups.

“I do know that we have been remaining completely operational,” McSherry said Sunday afternoon.

He said they made sure the entrances to the hospital were cleared and ready for people to come in. McSherry said they were prepared for the coming storm.

“When we were tracking and following the information related to the storm and making preparation for whatever it might have been, everything had went well, we were completely operational,” he said. “We were definitely keeping an eye on things.”

McSherry said that with the bad weather conditions, some employees weren't able to make it in, but there were those who were able to come in and go the extra mile.

“There have been some staff members who have stayed overnight” he said.

McSherry said the patients were able to receive the necessary care during the storm.

At York Hospital, employees and patients had a similar experience.

“All things considered, we’ve been managing fairly well,” hospital spokesman Brett Marcy said Sunday afternoon.

He said the hospital had some employees who couldn't make it in, and there were many who stayed there from the start of the storm.

“Many of them have been stuck at the hospital since Friday night,” he said. He said employees from all services stayed the weekend, ranging from food and nutrition employees to nurses and physicians.

Marcy said during the weekend, 75 to 80 percent of the in-patient beds were filled, but they were still able to receive their care.

“Our staff members really did incredible work in the face of a very challenging time,” he said.

With the storm over and some roads clearing up, Marcy said they are now starting to rotate their staff.

“We’re beginning to get back to a more normal routine,” he said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at